Even creative director Deborah Lloyd will admit that Kate Spade can come across as too perfect -- with her charming bow-front pumps, triple strand pearls, feminine full skirts and structured handbags at times looking like something out of the Kennedy era.
How to get Kate to loosen up? Send her to Los Angeles. That was the impetus behind the new Westward collection for Kate Spade, designed by Hollywood stylist-designers Emily Current and Meritt Elliott, known for their whimsical, all-American style, their red-carpet finesse with budding starlets such as Emma Roberts and Mandy Moore, and their revival of the boyfriend jean with the launch of the now-3-year-old denim brand Current/Elliott.
"It's a story of adventure, where you throw everything in your car and go," said Emily Current, explaining the inspiration behind the line of handbags, which might be described as Dustbowl glam (broken-in suede satchels, black sequin over-sized clutches and travel duffles with luggage-brown leather trim).
Current, Elliott, Lloyd and Roberts hosted a small dinner party under the stars on the roof of the Petit Ermitage in West Hollywood on Wednesday to celebrate the collaboration. And true to Kate Spade style, every detail was delightful. The place cards were vintage postcards of the West; the centerpieces rough-looking wood planters, old record players, books and musical instruments; and the striped napkins were matched to the "circus stripe" lining in the Westward handbags.
Roberts looked very old Hollywood in Kate Spade's strapless black-and-cream "ribbon Mirabelle" dress, red patent leather heels and matching red lips. Michelle Trachtenberg was in the vintage-look black "June" dress. And Zelda Williams (Robin Williams' daughter) wore real vintage -- a sheer, rust-colored tunic dress over a Wolford slip. Bryce Dallas Howard, Kate Spade's celebrity model of the moment, was unable to attend, but did walk the red carpet at Tuesday night's premiere of "The Help" in a custom Kate Spade maternity dress.
Lloyd, who has managed a spectacular turnaround of the Kate Spade brand since arriving three years ago from Banana Republic and Burberry, hinted that the Westward collection could be the first of many collaborations. (Kate Spade the person is no longer associated with her namesake brand, which was sold to Liz Claiborne in 2007.) Coming up in September, Kate Spade is launching four "Supercalifragilipstick" shades in conjunction with makeup artist Poppy King.
Lloyd was wearing clothing from the fall Kate Spade collection landing in stores now -- black cigarette pants, a boxy beige metallic tweed jacket, and square-toe pumps with chunky heels. The collection was inspired by David Bailey's 1960s-era photographs of model Jean Shrimpton. The second fall delivery will be less mod and more romantic, she said, with a nod to the elegant black-and-white fashion photographs taken by Lillian Bassman.
Lloyd is a collector of fashion photography, and was even able to persuade the 93-year-old Bassman to lend one of her iconic images to a Kate Spade tote.
The Current/Elliott gals and Lloyd will be celebrating the Westward collection with a party open to the public at the Kate Spade store in Century City on Aug. 11 from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m., 10250 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles, (310) 788-0791.
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Upper photo: From left, Emily Current, Emma Roberts, Deborah Lloyd and Meritt Elliott. Credit: Donato Sardella
Middle photo: Zelda Williams. Credit: Donato Sardella
Lower photo: Pieces from the Westward collection. Credit: Donato Sardella